Mahlkonig X54 Review
Few brands are as synonymous with commercial, high-end coffee as Mahlkonig grinders. But for a long time that’s all they’ve been, commercial machines. Bringing one into your kitchen would be more than overkill, not only from a form factor standpoint, but also because you’d be paying for duty cycle capabilities that you’d barely even scratch the surface of… But now, that’s changed with the introduction of a purpose-built home grinder. Can the X54 bring the pedigree of their commercial offerings into the home? Let’s find out!
For the sake of transparency, Mahlkonig did sent me this unit for review, but as always, this has absolutely no impact on the contents of this article, or the final opinions I have on the product.
Starting off as I normally do with build quality and design, we are undeniably starting with one of the X54’s biggest strengths. You saw my genuine reaction in the unboxing video, and just over a month later that opinion has not changed. This is a very well-built grinder, that feels like it could cost multiple times the asking price.
The whole body is made from metal which contributes to the 8kg total weight, and every interface, clip, spring, or adjustment just feels robust. For example, the hopper connection. It’s simple, but feels sturdier than a more typical turn to lock system. The main interface dial has a nice tactile feel. The portafilter holder, is solid metal. The grind setting knob, is laser etched metal. I don’t want to beat this point to death, but this really is a well put together product, and it was the very first thing that stood out to me about it. If I HAD to pick one negative, it might be that the magnets that hold the bottom tray in place are a little weak, but that would be really nitpicking, and thinking about it further, the fact that there are magnets there in the first place is a nice touch.
Design / Features
In terms of the design, you could say that the X54 is classic Mahlkonig. A broad cylindrical body, and a tall sweeping hopper. In this case, however, the tall sweeping hopper is a design choice I started to question slightly for a home setting. In my review of the Sette 270, I noted how it was just tall enough to start blocking my overhead cabinets. The X54, is a full inch taller than that. It may not be an issue in your kitchen, but you’ll definitely want to get the measuring tape out just in case.
I might also be a little critical and say that a grinder intended for home use could have been softened up a bit design-wise with something like a few wood accents… but they are planning to release at least one other color shortly, so I think that’s a step in the right direction.
Quickly running through some specs before we get into the actual user experience, this grinder uses 54mm flat burrs, hence the name. It has stepless grind adjustment, ranging from French press coarse to espresso fine. The hopper has a capacity of 500 grams, and it has a 64 inch long non-removable power cord.
Alright, that’s enough about the physical machine, let’s talk about what it’s actually been like to use over the past month
The X54 comes with 2 dosing configurations, which are interchangeable using a button on the side of the machine. Direct into a portafilter, or using the included dosing cup. The dosing cup feels very nice, but I was surprised and very confused to discover that it wasn’t 58mm, or any other standard basket size. It’s too large to dose nicely into ANY portafilter, which seems like a pretty silly oversight to be honest.
The user interface is very straightforward. You get a manual mode, along with 4 programmable time based modes that can be set by pressing the knob, rotating to the desired time, and then pressing and holding to save. Grinding is triggered by the portafilter when the forks are installed, or using the start and stop button when using the dosing cup. Regardless of which method you use, you can also pause to redistribute the grinds, before continuing with the remaining time. The display can also be put to sleep, or has a 5 minute timeout, at which point there is just a single pulsing red light.
One of the advantages of that tall hopper is that the beans always have a good amount of back pressure when entering the burrs, leading to consistent doses of plus or minus 0.2 grams which is about the best I’ve seen from a timed grinder. In terms of single dosing, which is I’m sure a question that will come up, the retention I was seeing was only around 0.2 grams, but it’s very likely that there’s some exchange going on there. It’s certainly not DESIGNED to operate at absolute zero retention.
This is a hopper fed system, and when used in that way it is a very nice user experience. I received this grinder right before thanksgiving up here in Canada, and when my family was over, having this grinder was an absolute blessing compared to what my workflow would have looked like serving 4 or 5 drinks at a time using the Niche.
One final thing I want to point out before moving on is that while the grind selector felt very nice in the hand, the action itself didn’t feel particularly great at times. Moving all the way from the finest to the coarsest settings, some ranges provided more resistance than others. It didn’t feel plasticky or like anything was going to break… but it just didn’t feel as refined as the rest of the grinder… not to mention that they COULD have gone with a large adjustment ring on the collar like most of their other grinders, which is just suuuch a more precise and enjoyable mechanism. Mahlkonig, if you’re watching, please bring the large adjustment ring to the X54.
This leads us into the actual grinding performance. The grinding range easily spans from French press coarse to espresso fine, and possibly slightly finer! But getting into the absolute finest settings did result in some quite considerable clumping. I think this starts at a point that’s much finer than you would ever be grinding for an 18g double shot, but it was still something I didn’t expect from a grinder of this calibre… Apart from the clumping at the finest settings, the grinds throughout the whole range looked beautifully consistent, and the coffee they produced reflected that.
Espresso shots ran evenly, with a nice overall texture, and extraction reaching up above 20%. However, from my experience it was the performance with pour over that really stood out to me. I got very clean, balanced cups, and in a blind taste test my girlfriend and I both preferred the X54 for those brews over the Niche, Fellow ODE, and DF64 with standard burrs.
Grinding speed was very average, not slow, but not particularly fast at just over 16 seconds to grind an 18gram dose of espresso. Noise level however, was quite impressive. Compared to the very quiet niche zero, they were both coming it at around 65db, but the sounds are distinctly different. I actually think that the higher pitched Mahlkonig might be slightly less disruptive, but it’s really too close to call.
It Has Wi-Fi?
This next item is definitely a first for me, the X54 comes with a built in Wi-Fi module, and before you run down to the comments, I agree, I was as skeptical as you were when I first heard this. What could a grinder possibly need connection capabilities for, other than something extremely gimmicky?
Well there’s no app to download, and you can’t start the grinder hands-free to impress your friends, but what you do get is an actually quite nicely executed, easy to use diagnostic tool. Simply turn on the wi-fi, connect using the password, and then enter the fixed IP address to access the web interface. 192.168.4.1
Once inside, you get no-nonsense access to software updates, error logs, event logs, and an extremely in-depth breakdown of number of total shots pulled, total grinding time, those stats again but broken down for each individual program, total motor on time, total standby time, you name it! I believe it will even give you a notification when the burrs have reached the quoted 25,000 shot lifespan and are need of replacement.
So, who is this grinder for? And should you be considering it.
If you are someone who switches between beans every drink, or only makes one or two coffees per day, then the X54 might not be right for you. The process of switching out beans is a little tedious, and you won’t really be benefitting from the convenience advantages of a hopper-based grinder.
However, if you are someone who uses up a full bag of beans before moving on to the next, and often serve 3, 4, or more drinks per day, then I think you should be giving this option some serious consideration.
The build quality has CLEARLY trickled down from their long history in the commercial space, as has the great grinding quality. Everything is well thought out, intuitive, and well executed, with the slight exception of the grind dial. But if you haven’t already noticed, I’m struggling quite hard to find things to fault with the X54. If you’re anything like me, and have always looked longingly at the Mahlkonig grinders at your local café, then I can say without hesitation that the time has come where you can finally bring one home.